Jackie Gaughan, Las Vegas founding father, dies at 93 - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Jackie Gaughan, Las Vegas founding father, dies at 93

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In this file photo provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, casino owner Jackie Gaughan poses in front of his El Cortez Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas on April 22, 1965. (AP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau) In this file photo provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, casino owner Jackie Gaughan poses in front of his El Cortez Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas on April 22, 1965. (AP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau)
Hotel and gaming pioneer Jackie Gaughan is greeted by an Elvis impersonator and showgirls as he celebrates his 89th birthday at the El Cortez Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas on Oct. 24, 2009. (AP/Las Vegas News Bureau/Glenn Pinkerton) Hotel and gaming pioneer Jackie Gaughan is greeted by an Elvis impersonator and showgirls as he celebrates his 89th birthday at the El Cortez Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas on Oct. 24, 2009. (AP/Las Vegas News Bureau/Glenn Pinkerton)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

John D. "Jackie" Gaughan, a pioneer of the casino industry in Las Vegas, died early Wednesday morning. He was 93.

Born Oct. 24, 1920, in Hastings, NE, Gaughan grew up in Omaha, served in World War II and earned a degree from Creighton University.

His gambling career began in southeast Nebraska, but he took Las Vegas by storm when he arrived in 1950.

"He was one of the first people I met when I came to town and began to practice by law," said longtime, former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. "Some of my clients from the Omaha area said to me, 'You have to meet Jackie Gaughan.' He's the father of downtown Las Vegas as we know it."

Goodman said Gaughan stands among the founding fathers of Las Vegas, along with Benny Binion, Sam Boyd and Mel Exber.

"[These were] the old timers who were here, who had the guts and courage to make Las Vegas what it ultimately became," Goodman said.

For a time, Gaughan owned all or part of eight casinos, including the Flamingo, Union Plaza and, most notably, the El Cortez, the oldest continuously running casino in Las Vegas, which he purchased in 1963.

Local newspaper columnist John L. Smith, of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, called Gaughan the king of downtown.

"He was always found at his casino," Smith said. "He wasn't one of those modern guys, who have their own jets, and very much international characters. Jackie was a downtown guy."

Gaughan helped create gaming for regular people. They wanted to spend and he wanted to make it worth their while. That's why, Goodman said, Gaughan was the first to offer coupons.

"You were able to get something either at a reduced rate or nothing," Goodman said. "He was the master of that, and that's how he built up his empire. And it was an empire."

"He was always good with - in those days - the $3.95 porterhouse or prime rib dinner, and that kind of old Vegas experience," Smith said.

After selling the El Cortez to the Epsteins in 2008, Gaughan was well taken care of, living in a penthouse suite, celebrating birthdays and playing poker at his former casino.

"When somebody like Jackie Gaughan passes away, it's a piece of Las Vegas," Goodman said. "We're just dying and [he] can never be replaced, because the new guys aren't the same as the old guys."

Gaughan died of natural causes after suffering from dementia, according to the Clark County Coroner's Office.

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